1st Edition

In Dialogue with the Greeks Volume II: Plato and Dialectic

Edited By D.Z. Phillips, Rush Rhees Copyright 2004

    This second of two volumes on the Greeks by Rush Rhees takes up the questions bequeathed by the previous volume. If reality does not have the unity of a thing, can it have any kind of unity at all? The alternative seems to be that reality has the unity of a form. In this volume Rhees brings the perspective of a modern Wittgensteinian philosopher to bear on the dialogues of Plato. In his treatment of the Georgias and the Symposium Rhees emphasizes Socrates' claim that it is important to seek understanding although one cannot say, in the form of a theory or philosophical thesis, what that understanding amounts to. In considering the Phaedo, Theaetetus, Parmenides and Timaeus, Rhees pursues these questions in a way which relates them to live issues concerning the relation between logic and discourse. Rhees shows that Plato's Forms can neither be thought of by analogy with 'ultimate' particles in physics, nor as fixed concepts that determine what can and cannot be said. Finally, D. Z. Phillips includes two treatments by Rhees of the Republic separated by fifteen years. In the first he criticises Plato for a fixed view that an order predetermines and makes possible growth in understanding, showing how this is the very antithesis of growth. In the second he returns to the tension in Plato's thought between 'answerability to reality' and the view that understanding and growth can only be achieved through a seeking in dialogue. Rhees concludes that language is not a collection of isolated games, rather we speak in the course of lives that we lead and what we say has its meaning from the place it occupies in the course of a life.

    Contents: Introduction; Part 1 Gorgias: Rhetoric and discourse; Desires and understanding; Morality, language and convention; Punishment, law and understanding; Socratic paradoxes. Part 2 Symposium: Enquiry, beauty and begetting; Love. Part 3 Phaedo: Forms; Becoming; The soul and the body; The immortality of the soul. Part 4 Republic: The notion of political wisdom; Independence and human relations; Education; Justice; Poetry and philosophy; Dialectic; Philosophy and contemplation. Part 5 Parmenides: Language and reality; The reality of things; The possibility of discourse. Part 6 Theaetetus: Knowledge and sensation; Sense and thought; Knowledge and error. Part 7 Sophist: The dialectician and the sophist; Logic and its application. Part 8 Timaeus: A limited account?; Space and time; The life of the soul; The world soul. Index.


    Rush Rhees (1905 - 1989) was a close friend of Ludwig Wittgenstein and one of his literary executors. He devoted much of his life to editing his work. Rhees taught philosophy at the University of Wales, Swansea from 1940 to 1966, where he subsequently became an Honorary Professor and Fellow. Among his teachers he included John Anderson, Alfred Kastil, G. E. Moore and, above all, Ludwig Wittgenstein.